On the boundaries of biology and physics.

Thanks to Dr. Clarice Aiello of UCLA, who joined eighth grade science classes this morning to talk about her work on the boundaries of biology and physics.

Originally trained as an electrical engineer, Aiello became interested in the natural sensors that have evolved in plant and animal life - sensors that are far more sensitive than anything an electrical engineer could design.

Her work connects large scale systems, like the earth's magnetic fields, to exceedingly tiny ones - bird ears, butterfly brains and amoeba light sensors, all the way down to quantum systems.

She covered a great deal of ground in a half hour talk, and student questions ranged from the tradition of mentorship in the scientific community to graphing fluorescence.

Her visit was arranged through the help of the nonprofit Skype a Scientist, and bookended the January visit from Dr. Sylvester J. Gates. He is a theoretical physicist, while Dr. Aiello's work is firmly grounded in biology, and between the two of them, students got a vivid picture of the career paths open to young physicists who love to ask questions.

New on the blog